So, you have taken your first step towards your new life in la belle France and bought your new gite business. Congratulations!
Amongst the many things whizzing around inside your brain and alongside your undoubtedly mounting ‘to-do’ lists, now (with all your operating permissions in place) before you have even physically moved countries, is the ideal time to give some thought to your marketing strategy for your gite business.
Especially if most of your family and friends currently reside elsewhere. Now is the time to give out those address postcards with your business details and a “family and friends” discounted rate. Give people spare copies to hand out to friends. Your leaving ‘do’ is an ideal opportunity for a spot of genuine publicity. Send those social media messages out and be clear that you need people to spread the word. Those personal and authentic relationships and recommendations are golden.
If marketing is not your trade, then it may be advisable to invest some time with an expert in the field to learn some key basics. There is stiff competition with many gites and bed and breakfast businesses, often within close proximity to each other. Therefore, choosing someone with a hospitality background will ensure that ‘expert’ really is ideally placed to help you.
To get you started, here are our top tips:
1. Start From Home
Your friends and family are your biggest supporters, and they are desperate for you to succeed. They will happily help. Ask them to share your business details with their friends.
Do remember that your high season, where you can charge the most, is relatively short (in some cases 6-8 weeks) This is your only time to maximise your profit. So, if family are looking for a hefty discount, give some thought to appropriate dates and to your profit margins.
2. Get Your Gite Online
We are an online society – there is no denying it. There is also nothing to stop you from creating your website prior to your move with a plan to ‘Go Live’ once the deal is signed and sealed. Remember to research the rules here in France regarding what must and must not be displayed on a business website. (It could be advantageous to have a first language French speaker work on your translation if you need it).
3. Create a Social Media Presence
Consider your target market and which social media those people are most likely to engage with. There is a lot more out there than merely Facebook.
4. Employ Old School Marketing Tactics
Flyers, business cards and posters. Get the word out amongst the locals, but remember relationships take time and personal recommendations need to be earnt.
Once in France, perhaps have an open day and invite your neighbours for aperitifs. Think about ways to engage in local community life and to showcase your business.
5. Point the Way to Your New Property
Pin your property on Google Maps and do not assume that will be sufficient – especially if you are rural. Signposts will be needed and make sure you seek permission from the relevant authorities – first stop the Mairie!
Perfect Your Marketing Skills
There is a whole world of marketing training out there. Some owners teach themselves; others invest in professionals to publicise their business for them. Either way, ignore marketing at your peril! Customers usually do not simply fall into your calendar bookings, but if and when they do, make sure you look after them.
Whether you may wish to sign up with big online travel agencies is another point to consider – the truth is, most of us owners need them to some degree. It is a good idea to research how much commission each one charges and to adjust your prices accordingly.
Finally, work together with your fellow gite owners – get to know them and stick together. Share top tips and pass on those bookings that you cannot fulfil. You never know when you might need them!
By Carol Paylor
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